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Cat. No. CHAN 10264 Price: £0 No. of discs: 1
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CHAN 10264 - Rachmaninov: The Miserly Knight
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Available From: 15 November 2004
"For the libretto of The Miserly Knight Rachmaninov retained almost the full text of Pushkin’s blank verse drama. He also preserved the original three scenes, setting each as continuous recitative without conventional arias and ensembles, held together through a system of closely related leitmotivs. In the first scene of the opera we encounter a baron’s son, Albert, humiliated in the eyes of the court by his father’s miserliness. A count has ruined his helmet in a jousting match and he has no money to buy a new one. We learn that the reason for his eventual triumph on the field of combat was his fury at the damage inflicted on his helmet by the count’s lance. ‘Was heroism the cause of it?’ he asks. ‘No, it was miserliness… It isn’t difficult to catch the same disease under the same roof as my father.’

In the second scene the Baron descends to the cellars to add a handful of gold to his chests of treasures. The monologue that follows is possibly one of the most outstanding scenes in Rachmaninov’s entire operatic output. The gloomy atmosphere of the vault, illuminated by candles and the glint of gold, is finely captured in dark orchestral sounds. The Baron describes his wealth as a token of his indomitable power while Rachmaninov’s music portrays the tears and pain that his accumulation of treasures has caused. The Baron expresses fear that his spendthrift son will squander all his riches. In the final scene Albert begs a Duke to intervene with the Baron on his behalf. Albert retires to an adjacent room when his father, the Baron, appears, but overhears the Baron claiming that Albert is planning to murder him. Overcome with rage, he bursts in, calls his father a liar, and challenges him to a duel. To the Duke’s horror, the Baron accepts. The Duke banishes Albert from court, and the Baron, overwhelmed by shame and avarice, collapses and dies.

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Reviews

'It has long been available on disc, but this new one outshines predecessors in the sharpness of the orchestral playing and the quality of the singing… highly recommended.'
The Telegraph

Valeri Polyansky conducts an eloquent account of this odd, rather haunting work…
Gramophone on CHAN 10201 (Cui)

Valeri Polyansky is a doughty champion for Cuis music.
International Record Review on CHAN 10201 (Cui)

A highly accomplished reading of Rachmaninovs glorious Symphonic Dances …
Gramophone on CHAN 9759 (Rachmaninov: Symphonic Dances)

…all are performed with an intensity, vitality and conviction…
Classic FM Magazine on CHAN 10104 (Rachmaninov: The Rock etc.)

Rachmaninov’s darkly brooding score holds one’s interest better than the story does. The lush prelude deserves a life of its own, and the slithery orchestral comments on the Baron’s money-fondling are effective and chilling. The vocal writing is fairly accomplished in that the characters are well differentiated. The Chandos performances is a fine one, nonetheless, and it comes with a Russian libretto (in Cyrillic characters) and translations.
American Record Guide

 

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